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Saturday, 13 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 13 Aug 2011





Threatened coastline
India has learnt little from 26/11  Those who thought that the loss of a large number of lives during the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008 led to a strict vigil on the long coastline of the country need to update their information. India’s coastal security can still be breached though huge funds have been allocated for the purpose and plans are under implementation to prevent the recurrence of what happened on that fateful day three years ago. At least three incidents that occurred in the recent past provide proof of this painful reality. A merchant navy ship, M T Pavit, abandoned by its crew in Oman, floated towards Mumbai and reached the Juhu-Versova beach undetected on July 31. Personnel of the Indian Navy, the Coast Guard and the Marine Police of the Maharashtra government had little knowledge about it till some fishermen informed the authorities about the serious security lapse. The ship had 30 tonnes of oil. The oil spill that it caused took many days to bring the situation under control. In the meantime, a lot of damage to the environment had been done.  Two other such cases were reported some time ago. A ship named MV Wisdom entered the Juhu beach area undetected, exposing the hollowness of the claims of the authorities that the country’s coastline had all the necessary arrangements to prevent terrorists and other such elements from giving the nation a surprise. Oil spill of a dangerous level was caused when a cargo vessel, MV Rak, sank in the sea near Mumbai a few days back.  Different agencies have been blaming each other now when these serious incidents have come to light. The alarming nature of these happenings led to the Defence Minister, Mr A. K. Antony, reviewing the coastal security situation and asking the agencies concerned to prevent anything like what happened in the past. But this is not enough. These incidents have brought to light the serious lack of coordination among the agencies responsible for coastal security. There is need to fix accountability for the past happenings so that some heads must roll. Any matter concerning national security should not be taken lightly.










The slender thread
by Maj-Gen G G Dwivedi  In the absence of effective government machinery in the newly liberated Bangladesh, the mere presence of the Indian Army had a salutary effect to instill confidence amongst the locals as also keep the bad elements at bay.  One day as I was stepping out of my shelter to lead an ‘Area Domination Patrol’, I was informed that some locals were waiting to see me. They were a Hindu family huddled together; middle aged couple, with their teenage daughter and son. Whereas the parents appeared to be deeply shaken, the young girl was rather composed. It was she who narrated the tale of their vows in fluent Hindi.  What emerged was that a self-styled ‘Mukti Bahni’ cadre was coercing the girl to marry him. The individual was in his late forties and already had two wives. He had been persistently luring the girl’s father but the old man had spurned the offer despite abject poverty. The only asset the family possessed was a small piece of land to eke out their livelihood.  During sensitive situations, Mr Mustafa, ( Junior Engineer – Electricity Department) in whose office compound we were camping, was of immense help. With the aggrieved family and Mr Mustafa in toe, we set off, to amicably resolve the issue. The trouble shooter, after initial reluctance, promised to step back.  Assuming that the matter was settled, we proceeded on, dropping the family en route at their village.  Their hut appeared to be barren, but for a few aluminum and earthen utensils. When we gave the family some rations, with teary eyes they expressed their gratitude. As we were leaving, the little girl ran inside and came back with a small crumpled paper wrap. “I had bought this for my brother, but would you accept it please?” she mumbled in a choked voice thrusting the packet into my hands. With a reassuring smile, I took it and tucked into my ammunition pouch.  Soon I was deputed on an outstation duty. On my return, I learnt that the same family had come to meet me again.  Sensing trouble, the following day I routed my patrol through their village, only to find the abandoned hut. Upon inquiry, the villagers informed us that a few days back the girl had been taken away. The family had left the village the same night.  I was deeply distressed. Suddenly I remembered the small packet. On opening it, I found a string of beads. It was a symbolic gesture of gratitude, trust and faith which had been reposed in me, although I was unable to uphold it for circumstances, well beyond my control.     The following day, we were to leave Bangladesh and head home. Moments before departing, I walked up to the Meghna River which flowed nearby. The sun had almost gone down and the dying rays had set the water ablaze. I pulled out the string and with a sense of remorse slowly lowered it into the river. As the string floated adrift, I stood still, wondering at the ways of nature; subjecting helpless masses to intense misery, their destiny always dangling by a “Slender Thread”!n










Indo-Russia partnership 'deep-rooted'
Moscow: Describing Indo-Russian ties as "deep-rooted and exemplary", India's top diplomat here has said the bilateral cooperation in fields of civilian nuclear energy and defence is the key pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries.  "Our partnership is time-tested, deep-rooted and exemplary in many ways. It extends beyond close and regular political interaction at the Summit and other levels, to long-term cooperation in such key areas as space, defence, nuclear energy and science and technology," Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra told Russia's official news agency ahead of the Independence Day.
Noting that the two reactors at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant are nearing completion, he said negotiations for the construction of two more are underway as per an agreement signed in March 2010 during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's New Delhi visit, which set the Road Map for future cooperation.  "Our impressive cooperation in the nuclear energy field represents an important component of the long-term energy security partnership we envisage with Russia, based on the twin pillars of our existing cooperation in nuclear energy and expanded cooperation in the hydrocarbon energy field," Malhotra said.  He stressed that Indo-Russia military-technical cooperation is progressing well and is "one of the important pillars" of bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.  "We will continue to promote cooperation in these sectors as a matter of high importance. We will exert effort to see that trade and investment in priority sectors, such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and information technology, reflect the size of our economies and our complementarities in those sectors."  Malhotra said that Russia remains India's largest partner in military-technical cooperation and vice-versa, and there are good prospects for further cooperation in a long-term perspective.  "Projects underway relate to aircraft, helicopters, infantry combat vehicles, jet engines, warships, missiles, rockets, tanks, ammunition and other specialised equipment. We have also recently put in place new mechanisms such as long-term contracts for supply of spares, with in-built price escalation clauses," he said.  Responding to a question about the problem of Russian vendors meeting the deadlines in the delivery of spares and equipment, Malhotra said it should be seen in the context of rather extensive and varied bilateral military-technical cooperation.  "Such delays are of significance to our security calculus and are duly raised by us at appropriate institutional levels in Russia. Concerns over delivery dates are shared, discussed, and solutions found. This aspect is being jointly, thoroughly, and continuously monitored," he said. "We appreciate the special care being devoted to this important issue by the Russian leadership."  He said the defence cooperation is being regularly addressed via a large number of dedicated Working Groups, with residual concerns being reviewed by senior official level mechanisms, such as the high level monitoring committee co-chaired by Indian Defence Secretary, which last time met in Moscow in June.  Malhotra noted that high level service-to-service interaction also provides inputs to the Inter-Governmental Commission co-chaired by the two Defence Ministers, which meets annually to take an overview of bilateral defence ties.  Observing that bilateral military-technical relationship has transformed over the years from a simple buyer-seller relationship into one involving joint research, development and production of sophisticated defence systems, Malhotra said the BrahMos cruise missile is a fine example of this growing trend.  "Besides BrahMos, the manufacture of T-90 tanks and SU-30MKI fighter aircraft are also being undertaken in India. We are also cooperating in the joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and a Multi-role Transport Aircraft. These joint design and development projects for new weapon systems and platforms are also evidence of a dynamic defence relationship," Malhotra said.  To further cement strategic partnership between the two countries, the cooperation would also be enhanced in such fields as biotechnology, nanotechnology, medical sciences, agro-chemicals, and meteorology, he said.  "We will support initiatives that enhance people-to-people exchanges, such as between our entrepreneurs, journalists, youth, academics, parliamentarians, artistes and others. We will also encourage greater exposure to each other's latest achievements, so as to see that we are not bound by out-dated mindsets and stereotypes," Malhotra said.  He said that the recent easing of Indian visas to the Russian tourists and businessmen will facilitate this.










J&K: Girls to receive arms training to counter militants
Jammu: The Indian Army officials in Rajouri district imparted arms training to girls with an aim to combat militancy in Jammu & Kashmir.  Girls in Rajouri district were trained to use the weapons by the army personnel of the paramilitary 63 Rashtriya Rifles. The aim of the training is to curb the rising militancy in the state.  Young girls, who generally live in a protected environment, came forward to learn the usage of weapons, which they could use in self-defence.  At the 'Know Your Army' stall, visitors got an opportunity to see various weapons, which the army had taken into its custody after it had conducted raids at the militant camps in the valley.  Priyanka Sharma, a local told Agence India Press that the Indian army has organised a fair here. They have a stall here by the name of 'Know your Army'. The officials told us about various arms and ammunitions. Many schoolchildren received arms training for their own security. We learnt how to use these rifles and if need be, we would be able to use them.  The main purpose of the fair was to create awareness about the functioning of the defence forces among the general population and the various career opportunities that were provided by the armed forces.  "There was a small camp set up in this area by the army. Numerous weapons were displayed in the fair. We had never seen these weapons earlier, so we got to learn a lot from these army officials," said Parveen Akhtar, a local.  The visitors got a chance to see tanks and infantry combat vehicles and they were also allowed to take a ride on few of these vehicles.  The villagers also got an opportunity to learn the usage of the highly advanced AK-47 rifles.  Army officials organised this fair, with an aim to promote the spirit of women empowerment among the locals.  "This is a backward area, so girls generally stay inside their houses and don't move out often. This is an initiative to bring these girls to the forefront.  Many girls participated in this event. The army officials imparted knowledge about various ammunitions as well, so that girls gain confidence, so that they can become independent and work in the future," said Colonel D.D. Swen, member, 63 Rashtriya rifles.









Indian MoD comments various defence and security issues
According to the Indian Press Information Bureau, the following information was given 10 August by the Indian Minister of Defence, Shri AK Antony, and the Minister of State for Defence, Shri MM Pallam Raju, in written replies to members of the Parliament of India:   PURCHASE OF 10 C-17 GLOBEMASTER III AIRCRAFT  The government have accorded approval to buy ten C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for procurement of these aircraft along with associated equipment was signed on 14th June 2011.  The cost of the procurement is $ 4.116bn  The delivery of these aircraft will commence from June, 2013 and is expected to be completed by June, 2015.  PURCHASE OF DEFENCE RELATED ITEMS FROM THE US  Procurement of defence items is made from various indigenous, as well as foreign sources including Unites States of America (USA) in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure. This is a continuous process undertaken for the modernization of the Armed Forces to keep them in a state of readiness to meet any eventuality. Contracts have been signed for purchase of various defence equipment including CI30J Transport Aircraft, VVIP Boeing, Harpoon Missiles, Sensor Fused Weapons, C-17 Globemaster III, INS Jalashwa, P-81 LRMR Aircraft etc. from the USA during the period from 2004 to 2011.  The total value of contracts signed with USA during the period 2004-2011 under Capital acquisition is around Rs.37,181 crore.  FIRING ON INDIAN POSTS BY PAKISTAN ARMY  In recent past, Pakistani troops have resorted to firing and violated the ceasefire on LoC two times in June 2011 and three times in July 2011 using small arms, machine guns and rocket launchers. Indian soldiers were not killed and there was no loss to Indian Force in the firing.  All incidents of ceasefire violations are investigated and protests are lodged with Pakistan Military authorities at the appropriate level through the established mechanism of hotlines, flag meetings and talks between the DGsMO.  AGREEMENTS OF ORDNANCE FACTORIES WITH MNCS FOR TOT  Ordnance Factory Board has been allowed to enter into agreement with Foreign Vendors for Transfer of Technology, in sequel to the Armed Forces procurement, on case to case basis.  Present Strength of the Staff at the Ordnance Factories are not sufficient to meet the demands of the three Services of the Armed Forces. Government proposes to recruit more persons for the purpose.  During financial year 2010-11, total 14,199 Nos. of staff have been inducted at various levels in Ordnance Factories.  ACQUISITION OF NEW GENERATION SUBMARINES  Government constantly reviews the security environment and accordingly decides about induction of appropriate defence equipment / platforms including submarines for the Navy. To increase the submarine fleet, a programme for construction of six submarines is currently underway at M/s Mazagon Docks Limited under Project-75.  Further, Acceptance of Necessity for acquisition of Six Submarines under Project-75 (India) has been accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council. The proposal is being progressed. In addition the existing Anti Submarine capability is being augmented by induction of Surface and Air assets.  INFILTRATION BY SOMALIAN PIRATES OFF GUJARAT COAST  In two separate incidents on 19th June 2011 and 26th June 2011, 38 persons, out of which 32 are of Somalian origin, were apprehended by the police off the Gujarat Coast and interrogated by concerned agencies.  Coastal surveillance and patrolling have been enhanced in the area. Joint and operational exercises are taking place on regular basis among the Navy, the Coast Guard, Coastal State Police, Customs and others under the integrated approach adopted for coastal security. Further, 10 Coastal Police Stations under Coastal Security Scheme have been made operational including one at Hazira. A new Regional Headquarter of Coast Guard has been set up at Gandhinagar. There are seven Coast Guard Stations existing in Gujarat and one Coast Guard station at Pipavav close to Hazira is being set up in 2012.   









14 women move SC for permanent commission
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Army's response to a reinstatement plea by women officers who have been discharged after completion of 14 years of service despite the apex court not staying a Delhi High Court judgment directing grant of permanent commission to them.  The application, moved by 4 Lt Colonels and 10 Majors, said since the HC judgment had not been stayed, the Army should be asked why it has not taken them back in service. They said the Indian Air Force had decided to grant permanent commission to women.  However, the SC had stayed contempt proceedings initiated by women officers for non-compliance of the HC's March 12, 2010, judgment.  "Indian Army has not complied with the HC judgment, rather acting in defiance of it as they kept releasing serving women officers from Army till the apex court stayed the release of serving women officers of the 9th batch by its order of March 4 this year," the applicants said.  Many of the applicants were single women supporting their families and facing serious financial hardship because of non-payment of salaries for last 18 months, they said.  A bench of Justices J M Panchal and H L Gokhale issued notice to the ministry of defence, sought its response within a week and posted the application for hearing on August 24.  The 14 applicants were the original petitioners before the Delhi High Court -- Lt Colonels Ashu Yadav, Sangeeta Sardana, Reenu Khanna and Monica Mishra and Majors Renu Nautiyal, Anupama Munshi, Prerna Pandit, Seema Singh, N V N Rao, Sandhya Yadav and Reeta Taneja.  The bench also issued notice on another application filed by six more women officers whose discharge from the Army was stayed by the SC on March 4. They alleged that though they have not been released from Army, they have not been paid salaries since March. Additional solicitor general Parag Tripathi assured the court that the salaries would be disbursed.  "The applicants are posted at various places and they are discharging their respective duties diligently. Despite stay of release order, the Army is not releasing salaries to the applicants with intention to harass the women officers," they said. The applicants included Lt Colonels Sony Sharma, Navneet Duggal, Sini Marc and Majors Vanita Dhaka, Richa Sagar and Anjali Bisht.










'India can't claim strategic autonomy without own weapons'
Observing that China's rise is likely to be an issue in India's ability to transform in future, national security advisor Shivshankar Menon on Thursday said the country can't claim "true strategic autonomy" unless it improves its defence production capabilities. Delivering the Prem Bhatia Memorial lecture, he said, "Talk of strategic autonomy has little meaning unless our defence production or innovation capabilities undergo a quantum improvement."  "A country that doesn't develop and produce its own major weapon platforms has a major strategic weakness, and cannot claim true strategic autonomy. This is a real challenge for us all," Menon said.  India, which is one of the world's largest spenders on military hardware, depends on imports for over 70% of its defence needs.  The NSA said Naxalism was one of the major challenges facing the country's development strategy.  "We know that it is neither the application of force alone or a single-minded focus on development can solve the problem," he said.  Listing China's rise as the first of the three issues which could affect India's transformation abilities in future, the NSA said the relations of the two countries have elements of cooperation and competition at the same time.  "We have a boundary dispute, and overlapping peripheries in our extended neighbourhood which is also China's neighbourhood. As long as we stick to our internal transformations, cooperate on common interests, we can expect the current relationship to continue," he said.









Eight defence estates officers were among Adarsh members
NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor General's report on Adarsh scam puts the spotlight on Indian Defence Estate Service, a small cadre of officers who are entrusted to look after about 17 lakh acres of land around the country.  According to the CAG, in the initial list of members submitted in April 2000 by Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society to the Mumbai City collector, eight Defence Estates officers were among the members.  Among those in the list who were members of Adarsh are at least two officers who are still in service — H P Badariprasad and R P Singh, whose name was subsequently removed.
"The action of the local military authorities acting in collusion with officials of the Defence Estates Organization enabled misappropriation of prime government land in Mumbai for the benefit of a select few. These officials in fact were those entrusted with the fiduciary responsibility of protection of defence land," the report said.  According to the CAG, the key conspirator behind the entire scheme was a sub-divisional officer of Defence Estates Office (DEO) Mumbai, Ramchandra Sonelal Thakur. In February 2000, Thakur in his capacity as chief promoter of Adarsh Society sent a letter to the then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for allotment of 3,854 square metres of land in Block No. VI of Back Bay Reclamation Scheme in Colaba, Mumbai for construction of residential building for the welfare of serving and retired personnel of defence services.  The collector wrote on March 29, 2000 to the military authorities asking them to confirm that Army had no objection for allotting the said plot to the society. On the very next day, the headquarters of M&G (Maharashtra & Gujarat) area wrote to DEO Mumbai and others. "Displaying surprising alacrity, the DEO too on the same, ie, March 30, 2000 confirmed that the land in question forming part of Block VI fell outside the defence boundary and belonged to Maharashtra," the report said. The fact is that M Gurusamy, then DEO, Mumbai was also a member of the society.  According to the initial list of members, besides Thakur and Guruswamy, there were six others including R P Singh, who is still in service, in the list of members. A second list given by CAG for August 2002 show a total of 71 members and eight Defence Estate officers figure in it. Among this eight, R P Singh has been replaced by H P Badriprasad. An official said it was actually Badriprasad's son Harishprasad who is serving with Defence Estates, by mistake the father's name was entered.  The small cadre of Defence Estate officers is entrusted with the task of managing almost 17 lakh acres of defence land around the country. This land is worth over Rs 20 lakh crore.




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